Blue Origin Achieves Safe Rocket Landing


Blue Origin’s rocket on the landing pad

Blue Origin, the space company headed by Jeff Bezos, has succeeded where every other effort has failed — on Monday, the company launched its unmanned New Shepard suborbital space vehicle from Texas to 329,839 feet, then the crew capsule separated and landed under a parachute, and the rocket module also made a safe, powered, vertical landing. It’s the first time a rocket has been recovered intact and reusable after a space vehicle launch. “As far as we can tell from our quick-look inspections and a quick look at the data, this mission was completely nominal, and this vehicle is ready to fly again,” Bezos told reporters today.

“This flight validates our vehicle architecture and design,” the company said in a news release. “Our unique ring fin shifted the center of pressure aft to help control reentry and descent; eight large drag brakes deployed and reduced the vehicle’s terminal speed to 387 mph; hydraulically actuated fins steered the vehicle through 119-mph high-altitude crosswinds to a location precisely aligned with and 5,000 feet above the landing pad; then the highly-throttleable BE-3 engine re-ignited to slow the booster as the landing gear deployed and the vehicle descended the last 100 feet at 4.4 mph to touchdown on the pad.” Elon Musk’s SpaceX company also has been working to develop reusable rockets, so far without success, but the SpaceX tests have involved rockets that were going much higher and faster.